Year: 2016 Source: Maritime Medicine.(2015).66(4):211-219. Published online 22 December 2015.DOI: 10.5603/IMH.2015.0042 SIEC No: 20160053

To establish the causes of mortality in the British fishing industry from 1900 up to 2010, to investigate long term trends in mortality and to identify causal factors in the mortality patterns and rates. A longitudinal study, based on examinations of official death inquiry files, marine accident investigation files and reports, death registers and annual death returns. Mortality rates from accidents while working at sea remain high in the British fishing industry. Over the twentieth century there has been a progressive fall in the numbers of deaths, much of this relates to changes in fishing methods and in the types of vessels used. However in recent years, and with a fleet of smaller vessels, the mortality rates from accidents have shown little change and a larger proportion of deaths than in the past have arisen from personal injuries and drowning as compared to vessel losses. Disease makes a relatively small contribution to mortality at sea and this has dwindled with the decline in distant water fishing. Suicide and homicide both feature in a small way, but rates cannot readily be compared with those ashore. The pattern of change in vessels, fisheries and fishing techniques over the study period are complex. However, improved injury and drowning prevention is the most important way to reduce deaths, coupled with attention to vessel stability and maintenance. The social, economic and organisational features of the fishing industry mean that securing improvements in these areas is a major challenge.